Why Are NFL Ratings Down?

Here’s some surprising news:  NFL TV ratings are down.  So far down, in fact, that the NFL league offices have taken the unusual step of sending a memo to team owners, trying to reassure them that the NFL brand remains as strong as ever.

AMFOOT-SUPERBOWL-NFL-PRESS CONFERENCEThe NFL’s memo says that its data indicates that the perception of the NFL and its players is actually up in 2016.  But the TV ratings for NFL games during the first four weeks of the season are down 11 percent.  Not all of that drop can be attributed to Cleveland Browns fans recognizing that their 0-4 team isn’t going anywhere and deciding their are better ways to spend their Sundays, Monday nights, and Thursday nights.  So what gives?

The NFL says it’s a confluence of events and predicts ratings will bounce back.  Other people think the presidential election is causing the drop-off, as males — the core audience for NFL games — have become more interested in presidential politics than football.  Others say it’s the protests of some players during the National Anthem, the fact that some stars like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have retired or aren’t playing, and the NFL’s decision to move more content to digital platforms.

It seems hard to believe that an awful presidential campaign might have suddenly caused long-time NFL fans to switch off games.  I suspect that the real reason is simpler — people are just tired of the barrage of NFL glitz and hype, hype, hype that has seeped into every crack and crevice of the game.  People like football because they like the game.  The NFL has done so much to change a game into a product that the game itself is getting hard to recognize.  I think many people are just tired of it.  I know I am.

Rating Everyone On-Line

You can “rate” just about any commercial enterprise on-line, and you can see what other people have to say about those enterprises, too.  So why not a ratings app that allows every everyday person to “rate” every other member of the general populace — whether that person wants to be “rated” or not?

Gee, what could go wrong with that?

Apparently such an app, called “Peeple,” is going to be rolled out in the near future.  It will allow you to post ratings, on a one-star to five-star system, of everyone you’ve known.  As currently configured, the app would allow you to be added to the mix by anyone who had your cell phone number — yet another reason to be circumspect in giving that number out, by the way — and once you’re on the site you’re fair game, whether you’re an attention hound who wants to be reviewed by the world, or not.

What’s the reason for such an app?  Well, some people say it would be nice to have a reference guide that would help them to determine whether to trust someone they’ve just met, but that seems like a pretty flimsy justification to me.  I might pay attention to the overall gist of ratings of a hotel or a restaurant, but are people really going to trust someone in important interpersonal dealings — think of picking a babysitter — because they’ve got one positive review on a mass website from somebody you don’t know?

The real reason for the app seems to be: well, why shouldn’t it exist?  We rate everything these days, don’t we?  And wouldn’t it be interesting to see what people have to say about each other — and, especially, about you?  In a selfie-saturated world, a people-rating site is bound to be appealing to those poor souls who stand at the absolute center of their own little world.  They’ll be flipping to that app constantly, checking to see whether they’ve received a new positive review, and posting positive ratings of their friends to encourage reciprocal ratings of themselves.  Hey, I’m up to an average rating of 4.75 stars!

If you want to be rated by the world, I suppose that’s fine — although I’m guessing that anyone so self-obsessed is bound to get a negative review or two that might jar their healthy self-image a bit.  The real problem is for those folks who would just like to exist without being “rated” by everyone, or thrust into the toxic world of on-line comments.  They’re not offering a hotel room or a meal to the general public; they’re not teaching a class or trying to get you to buy a ticket to see their film.  They’re just living their lives.  Must they really be subjected to “ratings” by people they’ve encountered?

This is another one of those socio-technological developments that seems fraught with peril and destined to produce some serious angst.